One of the major challenges for people who want to add muscle mass is following a diet that bulks up the muscles without increasing body fat. There is no getting around the fact that if you want to build muscles, you must increase your calorie intake. The key is eating for muscle growth without triggering the body’s natural fat-storing mechanism.
The first thing you want to consider is the type of foods you are eating. You want to aim for 5-10 grams of fat per meal, but it should be healthy fast, such as those found in olive oil, nuts, and fish. You want to make sure most of your meals contain between 40 and 80 grams of carbs and between 40 and 60 grams of protein, but you need to increase carbohydrate intake on days you work out.
To ensure the extra calories you are consuming are going toward building muscles, you need to time your meals properly. Upon awakening, your body is craves nutrients after a night of sleeping. After your workouts, tired muscles need to replenish the depleted nutrients to make it through recovery. Increasing your caloric intake at breakfast and after workouts gives your body what it needs when it needs it. The nutrients go right where you want them to instead of being converted to fat. Manipulating calorie intake by eating more at the right time makes a difference in whether you gain muscle or fat.
Your body’s demand for carbs is much lower on days when you are not working out. Your muscles require periods of rest between workouts to grow, and during rest days your body is not burning as many carbohydrates. If you fail to reduce your carbohydrate intake on rest days, you will end up with excess fat, especially in the abdomen and lower back.
Eating six times per day provides your body with the amino acids and other nutrients it needs to spark muscle growth. On rest days, your meals should consist of equal amounts of carbs and proteins. On training days, you need to increase your carbohydrate intake. Your body needs the carbohydrates for energy during exercise. Without it, your body uses protein for fuel. Protein used this way deprives the muscles of the amino acids they need to recover and grow.
Meat, fish, eggs, milk, and soy contain complete proteins. They provide the body with the essential amino acids it needs not only to build muscle but also to repair and maintain it. The actual measure of protein a food contains is not the same as how much protein the body can use. The body utilizes the protein in fish at 80% but can only utilize 61% of soy protein.
What makes muscles stronger and longer is stretching them when they are contracting against resistance. Lifting a heavy weight stretches the muscles before they begin contracting. This tears the muscle tissue and is what makes you sore the following day. Taking time off to recover is important because if you allow the muscle to repair itself and heal properly, it will be stronger than it was before you stretched it during your most recent workout.
Protein speeds up recovery time. The body breaks down the protein you consume and uses the amino acids to build the proteins it needs. Muscles need amino acids and other nutrients to heal after a workout. The sooner you consume protein rich foods after a workout, the faster the recovery. If you fail to consume enough protein, the body does not have the building blocks it needs to build and repair muscle, and that impairs growth.
How you manage your nutrient intake makes a difference. Meals late in the day should be mostly protein because insulin sensitivity is lower at that time than it is in the morning. Avoiding carbohydrates late in the day prevents fat gain. The exception is the meal immediately following your workout.
When combined with lean protein, carbohydrates trigger a series of chemical changes in the body that help rebuild muscle mass. An increase in insulin keeps testosterone levels from decreasing in response to low carb levels after training. Insulin also facilitates protein intake by the muscles. This is why it is important to increase carb intake on training days.
Carbohydrates can increase fat or muscles, depending on when you consume them. Learning to manage carbohydrate intake is the key to building muscles without gaining fat. Lowering intake on days you rest and increasing intake on days you train is the right combination for building muscle and staying lean.